World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO)

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  1. Basic Concept of WIPO
  2. Historical Background and Development
  3. Member States
  4. Mission and Vision
  5. Purpose
  6. Structure
  7. Functions
  8. Activities
  9. Director General
  10. WIPO Day

1. Basic Concept of WIPO

The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) is an international organization dedicated to protecting intellectual property rights and promoting their effective use worldwide. It administers 26 international treaties and develops services, policies, and resources to protect and promote intellectual property. WIPO works with governments, businesses, and creators to ensure that their ideas and inventions are respected and valued everywhere.

  • WIPO is the global forum for intellectual property (IP) services, policy, information and cooperation.
  • This is one of the 16 specialized agencies of the United Nations like FAO, WHO, ILO, IFAD, UNESCO, IMF etc.
  • A self-funding agency of the United Nation.
  • WIPO was established in 1967 by the WIPO Convention, which states that WIPO’s objective was “to promote the protection of intellectual property throughout the world…” (WIPO, 1967, Article 3).
  • WIPO currently administers 26 treaties and facilitates the negotiation of several proposed treaties covering copyrights, patents and trademarks.
  • The headquarters of WIPO is in Geneva, Switzerland.
  • WIPO became a specialized agency of the UN in 1974.

World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) carries out a wide variety of tasks related to the protection of IP rights. These include assisting governments and organizations to develop the policies, structures and skills needed to harness the potential of IP for economic development; working with Member States to develop international IP law; administering treaties; running global registration systems for trademarks, industrial designs and appellations of origin and a filing system for patents; delivering dispute resolution services; and providing a forum for informed debate and for the exchange of expertise.It is United Nations specialised agency that coordinates international treaties regarding intellectual property rights. Its 184 member states comprise over 90% of the countries of the world, who participate in WIPO to negotiate treaties and set policy on intellectual property matters such as patents, copyrights and trademarks.

Basically the Convention Establishing the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), concluded about categorization that “intellectual property shall include rights relating to:

  • literary, artistic and scientific works,
  • performances of performing artists, phonograms and broadcasts inventions in all fields of human endeavor,
  • scientific discoveries,
  • industrial designs
  • trademarks, service marks and commercial names and designations, protection against unfair competition,

and all other rights resulting from intellectual activity in the industrial, scientific, literary or artistic fields.

The areas mentioned as literary, artistic and scientific works belong to the copyright branch of intellectual property. The areas mentioned as performances of performing artists, phonograms and broadcasts are usually called “related rights,” that is, rights related to copyright. The areas mentioned as inventions, industrial designs, trademarks, service marks and commercial names and designations constitute the industrial property branch of intellectual property. The area mentioned as protection against unfair competition may also be considered as belonging to that branch, the more so as Article 1(2) of the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property (Stockholm Act of 1967) (the “Paris Convention”) includes “the repression of unfair competition” among the areas of “the protection of industrial property”; the said Convention states that “any act of competition contrary to honest practices in industrial and commercial matters constitutes an act of unfair competition” (Article 10bis(2)).

The five strategic goals laid out by WIPO in its 2005-2006 programme and budget are:

  • To promote an extensive intellectual property culture
  • To integrate intellectual property into national development policies and programmes
  • To develop international intellectual property laws and standards (partially defined as promoting laws forbidding the circumvention of technological restrictions)
  • To deliver quality services in global intellectual property protection systems
  • To increase the efficiency of WIPO’s management and support processes.

WIPO is unique among UN organisations in that its activities are largely self-funded. Approximately 90% of WIPO’s 2006-2007 budget of CHF 531 million (USD 440 million) comes from the fees its earns for international trademark registrations and patent applications. The remaining 10% of WIPO’s budget is earned from fees for its arbitration and mediation services, publications, and from small contributions from member states.

Key members/participants and decision-making structures: WIPO is made up of 184 member states and operates on a “one country, one vote” basis. It is governed by a General Assembly, which convenes each autumn and oversees the activities of the organisation, including its budget, while a number of issue-specific committees work on the substantive issues. The revenues generated from patent and trademark fees enable WIPO to support a staff of approximately 1,000 people, which is rather large by UN standards.

Although WIPO administers 26 treaties that deal with intellectual property rights, the World Trade Organisation (WTO) administers what is arguably the most important treaty on the subject, the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS Agreement). Unlike WIPO treaties, the TRIPS Agreement includes powerful enforcement mechanisms such as trade sanctions and litigation before the World Court that force countries into compliance with the provisions in the agreement. The WTO’s TRIPS Agreement was signed in 1994, and states in its preamble the desire to “establish a mutually supportive relationship between the WTO and the World Intellectual Property organisation.” (WTO, 1994) In 1996 the WTO and WIPO signed a cooperation agreement to facilitate the implementation of the TRIPS Agreement. In 1996 WIPO passed two treaties collectively known as the “Internet Treaties” in response to the demands of intellectual property holders worried about infringement in cyberspace. The passage of the WIPO Copyright Treaty (WCT) (WIPO, 1996a) and the WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty (WPPT) (WIPO, 1996b) marked an important change for WIPO’s involvement in setting ICT regulation (and for copyright law).

2. Historical Background [Milestones: 1883 to 2002]

One of the oldest specialized agencies of the United Nations, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) has a long and interesting past. Browse some of the key milestones in the Organization’s history.

1883 – PARIS CONVENTION • The Paris convention for the protection industrial propertyis born. This international agreement is the first major step taken to help creators ensure that their intellectual works are protected in other countries. The need for international protection of intellectual property (IP) became evident when foreign exhibitors refused to attend the International Exhibition of Inventions in Vienna, Austria in 1873 because they were afraid their ideas would be stolen and exploited commercially in other countries.

1886 – BERNE CONVENTION • Following a campaign by French writer Victor Hugo and his Association Littéraire et Artistique International the Berne convention for the protection of literacy and artistic works is agreed. The aim is to give creators the right to control and receive payment for their creative works on an international level.

1891 – MADRID AGREEMENT • With the adoption of the Madrid Agreement, the first international IP filing service is launched: the Madrid system for the international registration of marks . In the decades that follow, a full spectrum of international IP system services will emerge under the auspices of what will later become WIPO.

1970 – BIRPI BECOMES WIPO • The convention establishing the world intellectual property organization (WIPO) comes into force and BIRPI is thus transformed to become WIPO. The newly established WIPO is a member state-led, intergovernmental organization, with its headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland.

1974 – WIPO JOINS THE UN • WIPO joins the United Nations (UN) family of organizations, becoming a specialized agency of the UN . All member states of the UN are entitled, though not obliged, to become members of the specialized agencies.

3. Member States of WIPO

  • WIPO currently has 193 member states.
  • 190 of the UN Members as well as the Holy See, Niue and the Cook Islands are Members of WIPO.
  • Non-members are the states of Kosovo, Federated States of Micronesia, Palau, South Sudan, and the states with limited recognition.
  • Palestine has observer status. Also, 193rd Member State- Nauru.

4. Mission of WIPO:

  • To promote the protection of IP rights (IPRs) worldwide and extend the benefits of the international IP system to all Member States.
  • The mission is to lead the development of a balanced and effective international IP system that enables innovation and creativity for the benefit of all.
  • The mandate of the governing bodies and procedures are set out in the WIPO Convention, which established WIPO in 1967.

Vision of WIPO: The exploitation of the IP system is an important & powerful tool for wealth creation and poverty reduction.

5. Purpose of WIPO: The purposes of WIPO are two-fold:

(1) To promote the protection of intellectual property throughout the world through cooperation among states and, where appropriate, in collaboration with any other international organization.

(2) To ensure administrative cooperation among the unions. Industrial property, chiefly in the invention, trademarks, and industrial designs; and copyright, chiefly in literary, musical, artistic, photographic works.

6. Structure of WIPO:

► WIPO Administration: The Convention establishing WIPO provides for four different organs: the General Assembly, the Conference, the Coordination Committee and the International Bureau of WIPO or Secretariat.

General Assembly: The General Assembly consists of all states party to the WIPO Convention that are also members of any of the unions. It meets biennially and has the highest authority of all the organs.

Conference: The Conference consists of all states party to the WIPO Convention, whether or not they are members of one or more of the unions. It meets biennially to discuss matters of general interest in the field of intellectual property, as well as to establish WIPO’s program of technical legal assistance and the budget for that program.

Coordination Committee: The Coordination Committee meets annually. It consists of executive committee members of the Paris or the Bern union or both.

International Bureau: The International Bureau, located in Geneva, is the secretariat of the various governing bodies of WIPO and the unions.

The General Assembly is the supreme organ of WIPO. Among its other powers and functions, the General Assembly appoints the Director General upon nomination by the Coordination Committee; it reviews and approves the reports and activities of the Coordination Committee as well as the reports of the Director General concerning WIPO; it adopts the financial regulations of WIPO and the biennial budget of expenses common to the Unions; it approves the measures proposed by the Director General concerning the administration of the international agreements designed to promote the protection of intellectual property, it determines the working languages of the Secretariat, taking into consideration the practice of the United Nations; and it also determines which States not members of WIPO and which intergovernmental and international non-governmental organizations shall be admitted to its meetings as observers.

The fourth organ of WIPO is the International Bureau of WIPO or Secretariat. It is headed by the Director General, and further consists of those who make up its regular staff, the staff in the professional and higher categories are recruited on a principle of equitable geographical distribution established in the United Nations system, and other staff are from a wide range of countries in all regions of the world.

► Structure Under SCIT (Symbiosis Centre for Information Technology)—

1. CIO (Chief Information Officer)– 1.1- Application Development.  1.2– Technical Support.  1.3- Operations.

· 1.2.1. Data Resource Management- (a) Database Administration.  (b) Data Administration.

7. Functions of WIPO: The WIPO’s main functions are:

  • Assisting campaigns development to improve IP protection all over the world and to harmonize national legislations in this field;
  •  Signing international agreements on IP protection;
  • Applying the administrative functions of the Paris and Berne Unions;
  • Rendering technical and legal assistance in the field of IP;
  • Collecting and disseminating the information, conducting researches and publishing their results;
  •  Ensuring the work of the services facilitating the international IP protection;
  • Applying any other appropriate actions.

The prime and most important WIPO function is administering multilateral international conventions, i.e. depositing treaties, states’ instruments of accession, of conflicts settlement, ensuring treaties review, applying the registration functions for treaties reviewing the international registration of IP objects. Today, the WIPO administers the treaties in the fields of industrial property, copyright and related rights.

8. Activities of WIPO: General Activities are:

  • Developing WIPO’s communication, content and branding strategies.
  • Managing the WIPO website, social media and digital communications.
  • Managing media relations.
  • Creating, editing and distributing WIPO publications, including the WIPO magazine.
  • Creating graphic design, video and photographic content.
  • Managing the WIPO library and online library services.
  • Building a service-oriented culture within WIPO.
  • Running the Customer Service Center to manage external inquiries. 
  • Leading the annual world IP day campaign. Creating awareness-raising and outreach tools for use by member states.

a. Assistance to Developing Countries: One of the main objectives of WIPO is to assist developing countries in the fields of both industrial property and copyright. 

► In the field of industrial property, WIPO’s chief aims are the following:

(1) to encourage and increase, in quantity and quality, the creation of patentable inventions in developing countries by their own nationals and in their own enterprises and thereby to increase their technological self-reliance;

(2) to improve conditions for the acquisition of foreign patented technology,

(3) to increase the competitiveness of developing countries in international trade through better protection of trademarks; and

(4) to make it easier and cheaper for developing countries to locate the technological information contained in patent documents.

► In the field of copyright, the main objectives are the following:

(1) to encourage and increase the creation of literary and artistic works in developing countries by their own nationals and thereby to maintain their national culture in their own languages and corresponding to their own ethnic and social traditions and aspirations; and

(2) to improve conditions for the acquisition of the right to use or enjoy the literary and artistic works in which copyright is owned by foreigners.

b. Other Activities:

In order to adapt the treaties administered by WIPO to changing circumstances and needs, a constant watch is kept to see whether they need to be revised. The Paris Convention, for example, has had six revisions, the last in Stockholm in 1967, and the Bern Convention has had five, the last in Paris in 1971. WIPO also keeps international classifications of patents, trademarks, and industrial designs under review in order to keep them up-to-date.

In addition, WIPO observes changes in international industrial, trade,and cultural relations that seem to call for adaptations not only in the treaties administered by WIPO but also in national laws, regional arrangements, contractual practices, and professional activities in the field of intellectual property.

International Registrations: The International Bureau of WIPO, in Geneva, maintains four registration services in the fields of patents, trademarks, industrial designs, and appellations of origin.

9. Director General of WIPO:

  • Daren Tang, of Singapore, accepted his appointment on May 8, 2020 and assumed his functions as WIPO’s Director General on October 1, 2020.
  • He pledged that he would be guided by the interests and needs of all Member States.
  • He performed work as the Secretariat and will be conducted on the principles of integrity, transparency and accountability.
  • Prior to his appointment as WIPO Director General, Mr. Tang served as Chief Executive of the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (IPOS).
  • Mr. Tang also presided as Chair of WIPO’s Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights (SCCR) from May 2017 until his appointment as Director General.
  • Mr. Tang is a graduate of the National University of Singapore (Bachelor of Law, Honors)
  • The Georgetown University Law Center (Master of Laws, Distinction).

10. WIPO Day:

  • World IP Day offers a unique opportunity to join with others around the globe to consider how intellectual property (IP) helps the global arts scene to flourish and how it enables the technological innovation that drives human progress.
  •  In 2000, WIPO’s member states designated April 26 – the day on which the WIPO Convention came into force in 1970 – as World IP Day with the aim of increasing general understanding of IP.
  • Can we participate? – World IP Day is celebrated globally. Anyone can take part in the campaign online or offline. IP offices, government agencies, universities, law firms, businesses, international organizations, non-governmental organizations, universities, schools, along with thousands of people of all ages and from all corners of the globe, get involved in World IP Day every year.

Prepared by:

Md. Asraful Alam

Student of LL.B. (Bachelor of Laws),

Department of Law, Jagannath University.

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